July 15, 2008

Hockey And Baseball

Have you ever wondered what NHLers do in the summer time?

Golf and intense off-ice training pre-occupy much of their time. Undoubtedly the former is more enjoyable than the latter. Spending precious time with the family as well as fishing and traveling are common nowadays too. In these times of early unrestricted free agency, packing up and moving to a new city is a good possibility, too.

Times sure have changed over the years. In the old days players would tend to the family farm or work at a summer job to make ends meet.

In today's day and age of million dollar contracts, working in the off-season isn't necessary, though a few do. Sean Avery interned at Vogue this summer. Frank Musil once worked in a slaughter house.

A popular form of recreation used to be softball tournaments. Even up until the 1990s it was common for teams to organize charity slow-pitch games in the off-season with some regularity.

Needless to say, to be a professional athlete you have to be a highly competitive person, and often that competitive zeal boils over even into friendly softball games.

Just ask legendary broadcaster Dick Irvin Jr. Irvin of course was the son of the legendary coach of the Montreal Canadiens and as such he essentially grew up with the Habs. In his autobiography "Now Back To You Dick," Irvin recalls an unusual summer softball game where Doug Harvey's competitive nature almost got the best of him:

"In the summer of 1952, the Canadiens played a softball game against the inmates at St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary. I went along as the bat boy. (Doug) Harvey, a fine ball player, was the catcher. During the game, he got into a fierce nose-to-nose argument with the home-plate umpire. A couple of Harvey's teammates mumbled behind his back that maybe he should try being as aggressive on the ice. But they were duly put in their place when they found out the umpire was serving a life sentence for murder."

Hockey and baseball have had some cross-over stars. Baseball stars Tom Glavine and Kirk McCaskill were both drafted by the NHL. On the other hand, Wayne Gretzky has said repeatedly that as a youth baseball was the sport he was most passionate about.

Here's a few examples of NHLers who dabbled in baseball at a serious level:

Jim Riley - He was the first, and to this day the only athlete ever to play professional hockey in the NHL and Major League Baseball. He played 13 years of pro ball, including parts of 2 seasons in the Bigs with the Browns and Senators. He also played 1 season in the NHL, split with the Cougars and Black Hawks. He also played 8 seasons in the PCHA, which was a comparable league to the NHL back in the 1920s. Read more about Jim Riley here.

Peter McNab - went to the University of Denver on a baseball scholarship. He then also made the hockey team.

Kevin Stevens - the son of a former minor league baseballer, Kevin Stevens was a heck of a high school ball player who was recruited to play at Boston College.

Paul Ysebaert - Played on Canadian national baseball team in summer of 1985.

Brad Selwood - Was drafted by the Detroit Tigers.

Clark Gillies - Played three seasons of minor league ball in the Houston Astros farm system.

Bob Bourne - Played in the minor leagues in the Houston Astros farm system.

Gary Sargent - Turned down contract offer from Minnesota Twins to pursue hockey career.

Perry Anderson - Was inivited to try out with the Toronto Blue Jays as a 16 year old.

Ken Daneyko - Was invited to Cincinatti Reds rookie camp.

Randy Rota - Offered contracts from both the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.

Bob Brooke - Former North Stars/Rangers role player played shortstop at Yale.

Ray Ferraro - Played on Canada's entry in the 1976 Little League World Championships.

Chris Drury - Was the starting pitcher in the 1989 Little League World Championship final game.

Pierre Turgeon - competed in the 1982 Little League World Championships. In 2007 he was enshrined in the Little League Hall of Fame.

Stephane Matteau - Played with Turgeon in the same 1982 Little League World Championships.

Pat Graham - After his hockey career which included 103 NHL games, became chiropractor with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1990s.

Dave Silk - Grandson of former major-league baseball player Hal Janvrin

Krissy Wendell - 2006 USA women's team captain competed in the 1994 Little League World Championships. She was just the 5th female competitor in history at that time.

Hayley Wickenheiser - Canadian female standout was a double sport star, excelling at softball as well as hockey. She was part of Canada's softball entry in the 2000 Summer Olympics.

And of course former baseball legend Youppi switched to hockey a few years ago...


Anonymous said...

An excellent list!

One I'd like to add is goaltender Michel Dion, who played in the Montreal Expos' minor-league system in 1971 and 1972 before returning to hockey.

bradley said...

Wasn't Grant Fuhr a pretty serious catcher before he settled on hockey?

And I seem to remember hearing about Tom Poti playing in college.